After taking stock of things in the middle of last week, Nyeem Wartman felt he probably was going to commit to Penn State.
But it was the 6-foot-2, 231-pound Valley View High School linebacker prospect's visit to Lift for Life on Friday when he truly knew he was a Nittany Lion.
"I literally felt like I was on the team now. When [incoming freshman] Kyle [Carter] said he had to get home, go to sleep and get up for lifting, it felt I had to get up for lifting, and I went home and went to sleep, too,'' said a laughing Wartman, who was hosted by Carter and got to be friends with Angelo Mangiro, Sean Oakman and rising-senior recruit Camren Williams, as well.
Wartman made it official on Saturday, giving the Lion coaches his verbal pledge to become the team's 11th member of its 2012 class.
Contradicting reports that he had been silently committed or strongly leaning to Penn State earlier, Wartman said he had found himself going back and forth between the Nittany Lions and Rutgers before going through a checklist of criteria - including overall defense, coaching, best chance to develop, program consistency and most family-like atmosphere - on which Penn State prevailed four days ago.
Wartman had 14 major Division I scholarship offers. He said North Carolina State, Pitt, Northwestern and Florida were his other top schools.
"I was planning for one more go-round visiting Penn State and visiting Rutgers, but, when I got to Penn State, everything was great, I was comfortable with the players. Everything happened that I wanted to happen,'' said Wartman, who was planning to make a decision on July 22, his mother's birthday. "Playing [video games], I always played as Temple. I didn't know I was a Penn State-worthy linebacker. When I got those bigger offers, it was unexpected. I wasn't expecting to get offers from more than two or three schools.''
Wartman was a Scranton Times all-region selection as a junior after making 115 tackles, including 10 behind the line of scrimmage. He's a three-year starter for Valley View, a perennial Class AAA power, despite the fact that he only began playing football as a freshman after moving from Philadelphia; originally, he was more interested in basketball.
Wartman also is a sprinter on the high school track team and posted a sub-11-second hand-held time in the 100 meters.
"We're probably doing an injustice to him. Because he's so fast and all he's able to do, we move him around a lot. If he just stayed in and played middle linebacker for us, his stats would probably be a lot better,'' Valley View coach George Howanitz said. "One play, we played Abington Heights. They had a tight end going to Villanova, probably 6-3, 240 or 250. He tried to block down on Nyeem. Nyeem put him on his back and then tackled the ball carrier in the backfield, snapping his head back.''
Verbal commitments are not binding, so Wartman could change his mind before signing day in February. He didn't rule out taking visits later but said that wasn't his current intent.
"I feel myself totally committed,'' Wartman said.
Another player that was considering Penn State chose to go elsewhere on Friday, when Ohio safety Jarrod Wilson picked Michigan over the Lions and Ohio State.
The Lions are expected to bring in as many as 24 recruits in this class, with Wartman and Williams filling both linebacker openings.